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December 2021 visit to the Ruth Bancroft Garden (part 1 of 3)

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Ruth Bancroft was 63 years old when she started her dry garden on three acres surrounding her home in Walnut Creek, California. At the time, she was often asked why she would embark on such a big project at her age when it was more than likely that she would never see the plants grow to maturity.  This was her reply: “Well, who cares if I’m around or not? Someone will be around. And if I don’t plant it then nobody will get to see it.” I think of that every time I visit the Ruth Bancroft Garden . That—and the fact that Ruth lived another 47 years. She did get to see her garden mature after all, and she inspired thousands of gardeners with her vision and perseverance. Ruth died on November 26, 2017 at the age of 109. Her legacy lives on and, if anything, is more vital today than ever before. Garden curator Brian Kemble, who has been with the garden for an impressive 41 years, and assistant curator Walker Young, who joined the team nine years ago, have transformed the garden from its hum

Mealybugs (grrrr) on my 2nd tallest aloe

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Mealybugs are the most persistent pest in our garden. Like aphids, they're often farmed by ants  who feed on the sugary waste the mealybugs produce. And since Davis is built on a giant ant hill, as I like to say, ants and mealybugs are a fact of life. Typically, mealybugs are the most active—and hence the biggest problem—from late spring to late fall when it's warm and dry. Mealybugs cannot survive freezing temperatures, but since we rarely have hard frosts, I suppose they just hunker down in their cottony cocoons. It may be December, but the days have been sunny and warm. I'm sure that suits the mealybugs just fine. They don't seem to be inclined to go into hibernation just yet. In fact, to my surprise, I noticed quite an infestation in our second tallest aloe, 'Erik the Red'.  From a distance, 'Erik the Red' looks great: But look inside the center of this one rosette: And behind it:  I have no clue why mealybugs prefer 'Erik the Red'. We have

Black Friday agave takedown

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago  in this post , I was toying with the idea of removing our Agave weberi  'Arizona Star'. Beautiful as it is, it had simply gotten too large for its spot and was becoming intertwined with the Aloe marlothii  to the left of it and the two mangaves on either side.  There's simply too much going on here: I happened to come across the photo below from October 2017—just four years ago!—and was stunned by how much everything has grown since then: For comparison, this photo was taken in October 2017 I'm sure you know where this is going, based on the title of this post. Yes, my big Black Friday activity wasn't shopping, but taking down our 'Arizona Star'. Before I got started, I donned full protective gear: long pants, long-sleeved shirt, a baseball hat, and a face shield. It's not just for show: Agave sap contains calcium oxalate, which can cause contact dermatitis , and I'm a bit sensitive. In my case, it's not serious or

9½ books that would make great gifts

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I love giving and receiving books as gifts. Even with the abundance of information available online, nothing can replace a book where everything you might want to know about a specific topic is contained in a one neatly contained package. Below are nine garden- or plant-related books that resonated with me this year. Eight were published in 2021, the other one ( Private Gardens of Santa Barbara ) in 2020. Like my interests, they cover a wide spectrum. Maybe you'll discover a title or two that's up your alley or that would make a nice gift for a plant friend!   Agaves: Species, Cultivars & Hybrids by Jeremy Spath and Jeffrey Moore 🕮   Read my full review Simply the best book on agaves available right now—and most likely for years to come. Covers all but the most obscure species. 2,000+ stunning photos, many taken in habitat. In-depth information on everything you've always wanted to know about agaves, such as taxonomy, cultivation, propagation, use in landscaping